In 2019 techpreneur Johnny Boufarhat launched Hopin, an online conference-hosting platform. Starting out with just six employees, he now employs more than 650 people.
Of Lebanese origin, Boufarhat, who was born and raised in Australia and moved to the London as a teenager, is now the UK’s youngest self-made billionaire at the tender age of just 27-years-old. Having recently secured $400m of investment, Hopin is now valued at a very impressive $5.65bn (£4.05bn).
The virtual business is without a permanent office, indeed, Boufarhat himself lives a nomadic existence, preferring to ‘hop’ from one rental property to another. When he was interviewed by the BBC in June he was residing in an Airbnb property in Barcelona.
The timing for his business could not have been more perfect from a commercial prospective. With the conference industry decimated by the pandemic the whole world switched to virtual alternatives in order to maintain communication. Since 2020 Hopin has hosted over 80,000 events and counts the United Nations, Unilever, Slack and Nato among its clients.
Boufarhat has no immediate plans to alter his virtual business model, indeed, the digital company culture he has developed fully supports it.
Using his own platform he is able to host a monthly all-company “town hall” meeting with all 660 members of staff. To encourage collaboration the business utilises cloud-based software such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Notion (for sharing information via Wiki notes), Figma (for design work) and Loom, the video-messaging platform.
A personal journey
Hopin was born out of Boufarhat’s personal experience of contracting a bug while travelling in South East Asia. The incident left him immuno-suppressed and laid up for months when he returned to London.
Restricted from socialising in person, Boufarhat was unable to network, and even though he could attend webinars and video conferences he was frustrated at not being able to meet people or make new contacts.
In his BBC interview Boufarhat recalled; “There might be 1,000 people in the webinar, but it was still essentially just two people talking and you couldn’t even see who else was watching with you.”
It gave him the idea for Hopin, the first version of which he coded himself. Hopin affords delegates an interactive experience, enabling connection with fellow attendees via online breakout rooms and messaging.
Developed in his own confinement, Boufarhat’s invention turned out to be exactly the right technology to help others through their own Covid-19 induced confinements. His story is very much one of right place, right time.
First impressions are important, even for a virtual business. Using a virtual office you can work where ever but still compete on even terms with big brands and more established companies with a prestigious business address in a prime location.